After four months of COVID-19, as various numbers rise, fall, plateau or double-back, most people realize this pandemic will be around for quite a while longer. The desire to start a fall season of new beginnings (school! sports! rally day!) is so tantalizing and the loss we feel is so real. Perhaps it's time to step back and evaluate the past, present and future of your COVID response.
What are the virus-transmission conditions in your community?
The State of Illinois is tracking information in eleven regions to identify and respond to a resurgence of cases if necessary. It is imperative to be familiar with what is happening in your region
and have plans in place to enact your church's particular response. Warning thresholds have been outlined in the plans for mitigation
but limits on indoor gatherings and room capacity are not specifically quantified. Those with in-person gatherings should be extra vigilant in recording your attendees and identify when to suspend these activities.
The new rules associated with the mask-mandate already in place give local governments more tools for enforcement against those who openly defy the state guidelines. Most communities look to their places of worship to set the example and support their efforts to continue to beat back the spread of the virus - wear masks, social distance and don't become lackadaisical with compliance. Thank you for doing your part.
How are you meeting the needs of your worshiping community?
In March and April, many congregations quickly implemented what they thought would be short term on-line worship platforms. Now that it seems an on-line worship option is here to stay, forward looking congregations are rethinking their platform, hardware and software. This is a good time to do a critical evaluation of what is working and what could be improved. Better camera? Zoomed-in camera view? Higher quality sound? The Zoom Faith Facebook group
(it's public) offers a wide variety of topics regarding all aspects of virtual church from equipment to best practices.
You might also want to critically look at your website - are your worship options clearly spelled out on the home page? Many churches have discovered new people choosing to join them online - make it easy for them to find you!
Do you have members unable to access either a virtual service or in-person worship? You might consider sending a tech-helper (in mask) to their home to assess the situation and offer solutions. Some churches are even considering purchasing inexpensive
devices for some members. And finally, are you in steady communication with your congregation? They are anxious to hear from you.
How are you responding to the needs of your neighborhood and community?
Without additional assistance, the unemployed or marginalized in your community are running out of options. Have you fully explored how your church can help? Consider phone calls to teachers, schools, health departments or nursing facilities to ask if they have needs. Join forces with other churches or groups in their efforts. You might be able to offer your facility, your volunteers, your financial help, even your WiFi signal. (We know of one kindergarten teacher who "out-sources" paper cutting chores to a fellow church member.) By focusing your mission outward, worries and cares are softened.